Magic square3The Kubera-Kolam is a floor painting used in India which is in the form of a magic square of order three. It isessentially the same as the Lo Shu Square, but with 19 added to each number, giving a magic constant of 72.
This page from Athanasius Kircher's
(1653) belongs to a treatise on magic squares and showsthe
associated with Jupiter
In 1300, building on the work of the Arab Al-Buni, GreekByzantine scholar Manuel Moschopoulos wrote a mathematicaltreatise on the subject of magic squares, leaving out themysticism of his predecessors.
Moschopoulos was essentiallyunknown to the Latin west. He was not, either, the firstWesterner to have written on magic squares. They appear in aspanish manuscript written in the 1280s, presently in theBiblioteca Vaticana (cod. Reg. Lat. 1283a) due to Alfonso X of Castille.
In that text, each magic square is assigned to therespective planet, as in the Islamic literature.
Magic squaressurface again in Italy in the 14th century, and specifically inFlorence. In fact, a 6x6 and a 9x9 square are exhibited in amanuscript of the
(Treatise of the Abacus)by Paolo dell'Abbaco, aka Paolo Dagomari, a mathematician,astronomer and astrologer who was, among other things, inclose contact with Jacopo Alighieri, a son of Dante. Thesquares can be seen on folios 20 and 21 of MS. 2433, at theBiblioteca Universitaria of Bologna. They also appear on folio69rv of Plimpton 167, a manuscript copy of the
from the 15th century in the Library of ColumbiaUniversity.
It is interesting to observe that Paolo Dagomari,like Pacioli after him, refers to the squares as a useful basis forinventing mathematical questions and games, and does not mention any magical use. Incidentally, though, he alsorefers to them as being respectively the Sun's and the Moon's squares, and mentions that they enter astrologicalcalculations that are not better specified. As said, the same point of view seems to motivate the fellow FlorentineLuca Pacioli, who describes 3x3 to 9x9 squares in his work
De Viribus Quantitatis
A lastronomiasummamente hanno mostrato li supremi di quella commo Ptolomeo, al bumasar ali, al fragano, Geber et gli altritutti La forza et virtu de numeri eserli necessaria
(The supreme masters of Astronomy, such as Ptolemy, Albumasar,Alfraganus, Jabir and all the others, have shown that the force and the virtue of numbers are necessary to thatscience) and then goes on to describe the seven planetary squares, with no mention of magical applications.Magic squares of order 3 through 9, assigned to the seven planets, and described as means to attract the influence of planets and their angels (or demons) during magical practices, can be found in several manuscripts all around Europestarting at least since the 15th century. Among the best known, the
Liber de Angelis
, a magical handbook writtenaround 1440, is included in Cambridge Univ. Lib. MS Dd.xi.45.
The text of the
Liber de Angelis
is very close tothat of
De septem quadraturis planetarum seu quadrati magici
, another handbook of planetary image magiccontained in the Codex 793 of the Biblioteka Jagiellońska (Ms BJ 793).
The magical operations involveengraving the appropriate square on a plate made with the metal assigned to the corresponding planet,
as well as